How to Clean Headphones: The Best Practice

How to clean headphones in today’s world is a puzzling fact that lots of people endlessly seek tips on. As we all know headphones has become an integral part of our daily lives, from our commutes and workouts to relaxation. We invest in quality headphones from brands like Bose, Audio Technica, Sennheiser, and even Beats to enjoy the best sound quality.

However, over time, you might notice a decline in audio quality or that the sound isn’t as crisp as it used to be. Even if you’re not an audiophile, these audio differences can be frustrating. The solution may be simpler than you think: cleaning your headphones.

Why Do We Need to Clean Our Headphones?

Before we delve into how to clean headphones by best practice, it’s essential to understand that  Headphones, whether in-ear monitors (IEMs), earbuds, or over-ear/on-ear headphones, are prone to accumulating dirt, earwax, and grime over time. These substances can get trapped in the various nooks and crannies of your headphones, affecting both audio quality and your ear health.

We are usually conscious about showering and changing our clothes after workouts or runs, as we recognize the dirt and sweat they bring. However, when it comes to our headphones, many of us overlook the fact that they accumulate dust and grime every time we toss them into our bags, pockets, or anywhere else.

These devices can mix with other particles that have been lingering in these spaces, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.

Continuously exposing your ears to dirty headphones is a surefire way to increase your risk of ear infections, earwax blockages, and costly trips to the doctor’s office. Just as you wouldn’t treat other personal belongings this way, your headphones deserve proper care and maintenance to ensure longevity, sound quality, and in-ear hygiene.

Getting Started: What You Need

To clean your headphones effectively, you’ll need some basic cleaning supplies. These items are readily available at home, making the cleaning process hassle-free. Here’s what you’ll need:

A small cloth: This will be used for wiping various parts of your headphones.

Rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer: These liquids are effective in disinfecting and cleaning your headphones.

Q-tips/cotton buds: These are essential for reaching tight spots and corners.

Soap and water: For cleaning certain components of your headphones.

Blu-tack/multipurpose adhesive: This sticky substance will help remove dirt and debris effectively.

How to Clean Earphones (In-Ear Monitors/Earbuds)

Cleaning the Driver Unit

The driver unit is the part of your earphones where sound is produced and is inserted into your ears. To clean this part effectively:

Hold your earphones with the mesh side facing downwards. This will prevent any debris from falling further into the earpiece.

Use a dry, soft toothbrush: Preferably a children’s toothbrush, to gently brush the wire mesh. This will help dislodge dirt and clogged earwax.

Tap the non-mesh side: This is the side with the logo. Tapping it helps knock off any remaining debris.

Use a bent paperclip and multipurpose adhesive: Such as Blu-tack. Go over the wire mesh to remove any remaining dirt and dust. The adhesive will pick up unwanted substances, leaving your mesh debris-free.

Dampen a small cloth with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer: Wipe over the metal mesh as well as the wires. Do not soak the cloth, as excessive liquid may damage your device.

Cleaning the Ear Tips

Many earphones come with detachable silicone sleeves/ear tips in various sizes to provide a comfortable fit for your ears. To clean these tips:

Remove the silicone ear tips: If your earphones have them and are waterproof.

Soak the silicone ear tips in slightly soapy warm water: Leave them for about 5 minutes to loosen any dirt or debris.

Rinse the silicone sleeves: Give them a good wipe-down, and then leave them to dry completely on paper towels before reattaching them.

How to Clean Headphones (Over-Ear/On-Ear)

Cleaning over-ear or on-ear headphones can be slightly trickier as they involve more delicate parts like leather or foam ear pads that can tear easily. Here’s how to clean them:

Remove the ear pads: Carefully detach the ear pads from your headphones.

Wipe the exterior of the headphones: Use a small cloth dampened with some soapy warm water. Wipe the headphones down, then dry them with paper towels. Leave them to air dry completely.

Dampen a small cloth with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer: Gently wipe down the exterior of the ear pads.

Use a Q-tip/cotton bud: Soak it in alcohol or hand sanitizer and clean the nooks and crevices of the ear pads.

Dab some alcohol/hand sanitizer over the surface of the foam mesh: Gently rub both the right and left sides together. This will help kill off bacteria residing in the ear pads and dislodge any dirt or grime.

**Leave the ear pads to air dry completely on paper towels before reattaching them.

For best practice, please note that some headphones, like AirPods Max, may have specific cleaning processes. Always check your manufacturer’s guide for guidance.

Advanced Cleaning Method

For a thorough clean that mimics the “out of the factory” freshness, consider using a hearing aid vacuum. These specialized vacuums utilize small vacuum pumps to effectively extract earwax and dirt from your headphones.

Cleaning Headphone Jacks

Clean your headphone jacks to ensure a proper fit and optimal sound quality. For example, the iPhone’s headphone jack has a white interior, making dirt buildup conspicuous. Here’s how to clean your headphone jack:

Use a can of compressed air: This is the quickest and most fuss-free method. The thin nozzle can concentrate a quick, short blast of air to dislodge and remove lint and dust trapped inside.

MacGyver it: You can use an interdental brush, a pipe cleaner, or a bent paperclip with double-sided tape. Insert it carefully and lightly brush the inside of the jack until any visible blockage is removed. Be gentle to avoid damaging the metal interior.

Getting Rid of the “Sweat” Stink

Headphones can develop an unpleasant smell, especially in damp and humid environments. Moisture and dirt can stain the ear pads, leading to mold growth and a foul odor. Here are two solutions:

Clean headphones
Women with head phones at the gym

Silica gel packets: These gel beads help control humidity by absorbing moisture. Place them in the ear cups when storing your headphones to mitigate odor.

Get ear pad replacements: If the smell persists, consider replacing the ear pads. You can find affordable third-party replacements if the original manufacturer’s options are expensive.

Keeping Your Ears Clean

Besides cleaning your headphones, it’s important to maintain ear hygiene for an optimal listening experience. Earwax is a natural substance produced by the ear canal to protect it from foreign particles. If your ear canal produces more oil than necessary, earwax can build up. To manage earwax, you can use products like Debrox, which cleanses

FAQ On How To Clean An Headphones

What are experts tips for Cleaning Headphones?

The most important tip for cleaning headphones is to do it regularly. A little preventive maintenance can go a long way in preserving sound quality and hygiene. Even a quick wipe-down after use can prevent the buildup of dirt and grime over time.

What are things to consider before cleaning headphones?

 One surprising fact is that dirty headphones can lead to earwax blockage. When earphones are dirty, we tend to turn up the volume to compensate for the reduced sound quality. Higher volumes can push earwax deeper into the ear canal, potentially causing blockages and affecting hearing.

What are the different Method for Cleaning Over-Ear Headphones vs. AirPods?

The cleaning method for over-ear headphones and AirPods shares some similarities, such as wiping down the exterior and cleaning the ear pads or ear tips.

However, over-ear headphones may have more delicate components like leather or foam ear pads that require extra care.

AirPods have smaller, more intricate parts that may need a bit more attention, and you should also be cautious about moisture since they are not typically designed to be water-resistant.

How can i clean Different Types of Dirt?

The cleaning method may vary based on the type of dirt. For regular dirt and dust, wiping down the exterior with a cloth and cleaning the ear pads or ear tips is usually sufficient. For sweat and moisture, it’s essential to address odor issues by using silica gel packets or replacing ear pads.

Removing earwax buildup may require more meticulous cleaning of the mesh and ear tips, especially for in-ear headphones. For stubborn dirt, like adhesive residues, a mild solvent may be necessary, but caution is needed to avoid damaging the headphone’s finish.

How Often Should You Clean Headphones?

The frequency of cleaning depends on your usage and environment. For regular users, a weekly wipe-down can suffice, while deep cleaning can be done monthly or quarterly. If you exercise with your headphones, clean them after each session to prevent sweat and moisture buildup.

When should I replace my headphones?

It’s time to consider new headphones when cleaning and maintenance no longer improve sound quality or when components like ear pads are irreparably damaged.

Additionally, if your headphones have become incompatible with the latest technology (e.g., an outdated connector), or if they no longer fit your lifestyle needs, it might be time to invest in a new pair.

Can Dirt In Headphones Affect  Hearing?

Yes, dirty headphones can potentially affect your hearing. When headphones are dirty, users tend to increase the volume to compensate for the muffled sound. Listening at high volumes for extended periods can lead to hearing damage over time.

Additionally, if earwax buildup occurs due to dirty headphones, it can impact your hearing by blocking sound from entering the ear canal.